Updated: Jan 20, 2019
One lingering question remains: Is Turkey an European or Asian country?
After I finished my Turkish Politics course, my Turkish friend and I decided to talk over lunch. Here, I got the opportunity to ask the question some of my fellow friends and family have been curious to know the answer to. “Why is Turkey considered Europe? Would you call yourself Asian or European?” Her response, with further interaction with my Turkish professor made me understand why Turkey is considered part of Europe.
According to my Turkish friend, Turkey is considered Europe because of the country’s geography and demographics. She explained that she had barely thought of considering herself Asian, irrespective of the fact that she was born, bred and currently lives on the Asian side. “Although much of Turkey is part of the Asian continent, we [Turks] don’t consider ourselves Asians. We don’t look like Asians and so we don’t consider ourselves as such.” She is right: many people I have interacted with actually refer to their ancestral roots in regions like Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia (considered part of Europe), which were formerly part of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, although they proudly consider themselves Turks, they also acknowledge their ancestral roots.
My Turkish Politics professor also suggested Ottoman Empire’s history as one reason why Turkey is considered Europe. Firstly, the existence of the vast Ottoman Empire was as a result of expansion through conquer of various European countries over the centuries. Once existing as a huge empire, it posed a threat to the Great Powers, and this often called for territorial disputes and intervention in various regions of the empire. Thus modern-day countries like Germany and England found themselves meddling in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire. Also, the early Ottoman Empire inhabited Christian capitalists in Greece and Armenia, who bought and sold extensively in Europe. Lastly, after Turkey’s path to democratization and modernization has been facilitated by her interactions with Europe through commerce, western ideology and European diplomacy.
The Republic Turkey is not the only country that is considered part of Europe for reasons other than geography. Armenia, which is entirely located in West Asia is recognized as part of Europe. WorldAtlas explains, “In recent years some sources now consider them [Armenians] to be more closely aligned with Europe based on their modern economic and political trends” (WorldAtlas). Thus, the definition of the European continent now goes beyond national borders and geographical locations: history, with current economic and political status closely associated with Europe contributes to what countries are considered Europe.
The Republic Turkey is not the only country that is considered part of Europe for reasons other than geography.
Do I consider Turkey as Europe although more than ninety percent of the country is located in Western Asia? Yes and no. Yes, because I agree that the reasons stated above. No, because to claim to be part of one continent while it is not “factual” somewhat undermines the impact this geographical fact has on Turkey’s relationship with other countries in the world, and the perception other countries has about Turkey.
“Armenia Description”. WorldAtlas. Worldatlas.com. Aug. 31, 2015. Web. Nov. 24, 2015.
In fall 2015, Trudy studied abroad in Istanbul, Turkey. She shares her experience in this journal she had to write for one of her immersion classes.